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# Chapter 2

Capacitor &
Dielectrics

SUBTOPICS :
2.1 Capacitance and capacitors in
series and parallel
2.2 Charging & Discharging of
capacitors
2.3 Capacitors with dielectrics

2.0 Introduction

Capacitor
-- is a device that is capable of storing
electric charges.
-- come in different shapes & sizes.
-- used in a variety of electric circuits.

## -- consists of 2 conductors separated by a

small air gap or insulator.
-- This insulator is known as dielectric could
be made of mica, ceramics, paper or oil.

## -- the conductors could be

rigid metal plates facing
each other or a pair of
insulated metal foil
rowed into a cylindrical
casing.

or

Q
C
V

parallel
Capacitance:

## The capacitance of a capacitor is defined as

the ratio of the magnitude of the charge on
either plate to the potential difference
between them.

## where Q : charge on one of the plates

V : potential difference across them
Unit of capacitance : C V-1 @ Farad ( F )

Definition of 1 Farad:
1 Farad is defined as the
charge of 1 coulomb stored
on each of the conducting
plates as a result of a
potential difference of 1
volt between the two plates.

## The capacitance for a capacitor does not

change unless it is designed to be a variable
capacitor.

From:

Q
C
V
rearrange

## The charges stored ( Q ) is directly

proportional to the potential difference
( V ) across the conducting plate.
Mathematically:

## A capacitor with a large capacitance can

hold more charges than one with a
smaller capacitance for the same
potential difference applied across them.

## Capacitors in series & parallel

Capacitors in series

plates :
Q Q1 Q 2 Q 3 Qn

## The potential difference across each

capacitor C1, C2, C3, Cn are V1, V2, V3, Vn
respectively.
Hence

Q
Q
Q
Q
; V2
; V3
V1
; Vn
C1
C2
C3
Cn

## Since total potential difference :

V V 1 V 2 V 3 Vn (1)
If CE is the equivalent capacitance for
a single capacitor that could replace
the series combination & store the
same charge at the same voltage.

Q
Q
V
CE
CE
V
Substituting into (1) :

Q Q Q Q
Q
K
CE C 1 C 2 C 3
Cn
Canceling the common Qs, we get :

1
1
1
1
1

K
CE C 1 C 2 C 3
Cn
Value of CE is always smaller than the
smallest capacitance in the combination.

Capacitors in Parallel

## The voltages across the capacitors are the

same.
V V 1 V 2 V 3 K Vn

## The charges stored by each capacitor C1, C2,

C3, Cn are Q1 , Q2 , Q3 , Qn respectively.

Q1 C 1V ; Q 2 C 2V ; Q 3 C 3V and Qn CnV
The total charge ( Q ) is the sum of the
charges on each capacitor :

Q Q1 Q 2 Q 3 K Qn K (1)
A capacitor with the equivalent capacitance,
CE would hold this same total charge when
connected to the battery, so :
Q
Q CEV
CE
V

## Substituting into (1) :

CE V C 1 V C 2 V C 3 V K C n V
Canceling the common Vs, we get :

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 K C n
For this case, the CE is larger than the
largest individual capacitance.

Example 1
What is the total capacitance in a, b and c ?
C1 5 F

C1 5 F
+

C 2 10 F
+

C1 5 F

C 2 10 F

C 3 15 F
+ -

C 2 10 F

C 3 15 F

(a)

C 3 15 F

+- +- + -

(b)

(c)

## (a) In parallel , the total capacitance is

given by

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 5 F 10 F 15 F
30 F
(b) In series, the total capacitance is given by

1 1 1 1
1
1
1

CE C 1 C 2 C 3 5 F 10 F 15 F
1
11

CE 30 F
30
CE F 2.7 F
11

## (c) The equivalent capacitor for the 2

capacitors connected in parallel :

Cp C 1 C 2 5 F 10 F
Cp 15 F

## The total capacitance for the parallel &

series connections is CE where

2
1
1
1
1 1

CE Cp C 3 15 F 15 F 15 F
15
CE F 7.5 F
2

Example 2
Find the potential difference across the
capacitors X, Y and Z .
Find the charges reside on the capacitors X,
Y and Z .
CY 1 F
CX 6 F

CZ 2 F

12 V

## The equivalent capacitance for Y & Z

is CYZ where
CYZ 3 F
CX 6 F

CYZ CY CZ

1 F 2 F

CYZ 3 F
The equivalent capacitance for X, Y & Z :
CE

1
1
1
1
1

CE CX CYZ 6 F 3 F
1

2 F

CE 2 F

26.4x1065

capacitance is

Q CE V
(2 x10 6 )12
Q 2.4 x10 5 C

## The charge for the capacitor X = 2.4x10-5 C

Potential difference across X ,

Q
VX
CX

VX 4 V

VY VZ
Thus : V VX VY

VY 12 4

VY 8 V
VZ 8 V
QY CY VY
(1x10 6 ) 8

QY 8 x106 C

QZ CZ VZ
(2 x10 6 ) 8
5

QZ 1.6 x10 C

## Energy stored in a charged capacitor

When the switch is closed, charges begin to
accumulate on the plates.
A small amount of work ( W ) is done in
bringing a small amount of charge ( Q ) from
the battery to the capacitor.
since C Q :
V

W V Q
Q
W Q
C

2
1
Q
W
2C

## The total work ( W ) required to increase the

accumulated charge from zero to Q is given by
Q

W VdQ dQ
C
0
0

We know, Q CV thus :

1W
2
2C
VQ

Q
C can also be written as : C , thus :
V

## The work done in charging the capacitor

appears as electric potential energy U
stored in the capacitor.
Thus:

## Work done, W = Energy, U

Example 2
A 4 F and 6 F capacitor connected in
series are charged by a 240 V power supply.
Calculate
(a) The charge on each capacitor
(b) The potential difference across each
capacitor.
(c) The total energy stored in each capacitor.

Sketching Diagram

240 V

4 F

12

C2

C1

6 F

Solution

in series :

1
1
1

CE 4 6

CE 2.4 F

## Q on each capacitor connected in series is the

same & is equal to the Q on the combined
capacitor.

Qtotal Q1 Q2
Q CV

## 2.4 x10 (240)

4

5.8 x10 C
Potential difference across 4F capacitor :
Q
V1
C1

5.8 x10 4
144 V

6
4 x10

1
W
2Q
1V
(225.8x104)(4496)

## Potential difference across 6F capacitor :

4
Q
5
.
8
x
10
V2

96
V

6
C2
6 x10
The total energy stored in 4F capacitor :

0.04176 J

0.02784 J

RC

## 2.2 Charging & Discharging of capacitors

Capacitors can undergoes two different
process mainly known as:
(i) Charging Process
(ii) Discharging Process

## 2.2 Charging & Discharging of capacitors

Charging a capacitor
A capacitor in series with a resistor, switch &
battery.

## If the switch is closed at t = 0, charge begin to

flow setting up a current in the circuit.
Electrons move out of plate A leaving positive
charges on A.
Simultaneously, the battery causes electrons to
move onto plate B, leaving it negatively charged.
As the plates become charged, the potential
difference across the capacitor, Vc increases.
Current, I decreases to zero.
The increase of charges on both plates continues
until the potential difference across it, Vc is
equal to the supply voltage V0 of the battery.

## By that time, current, I stops flowing. The

maximum charge Q0 is reached.

## The value of the maximum charge depends on

the voltage of the battery.

Q0 C V 0

Q
(1e)V(1e)

t0/RC0t/RC

Plots of capacitor
charge, Q vs time t :

Plots of capacitor
voltage, V vs time t :

I0et/RC

## Plots of current, I vs time t :

During charging process, time constant, is
defined as the time taken for the current to
decrease to 37% of its initial value (I0) or the
voltage across the charging capacitor has
risen to 63% of its maximum voltage (V0)

Discharging a capacitor

## When the switch is closed, the capacitor

discharges.
Electrons will flow from plate B through the
resistor R to plate A neutralizing the
positive charges on plate A.
When the capacitor is fully discharged, I = 0,
V = 0.

Q
eVe

0t/RC0t/RC

Plots of capacitor
charge, Q vs time t :

Plots of capacitor
voltage, V vs time t :

I0et/RC

## Plots of current, I vs time t :

During discharging process, time constant,
is defined as the time taken for the voltage
across the capacitor and the current in the
circuit decays exponentially with time falling
to 37% of its initial value.

RC

## How fast a capacitor to get charged depends

on time constant (the product of RC).
From:

R ;

C ;

## If the capacitance C is larger,

is larger, it
would take a longer time to charge the
capacitor.

## If the resistance R of the resistor is higher,

the current in the circuit is lower, and the
capacitor takes a longer time to get charged.

e
Q
(1e)Q

t0/RC0t/RC

## Graph of charge versus time (Q-t)

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

V(1e)Ve

t0/RC0t/RC

## Graph of Voltage versus time (V-t)

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

Ie

0t/RCI
0e
t/RC

## Graph of Current versus time (I-t)

Charging Capacitor

Discharging Capacitor

Example 3
An uncharged capacitor and a resistor are
connected in series to a battery. If V = 12.0 V,
C = 5.0 F & R = 8.0x105 . Find
(a) the time constant
(b) the maximum charge on the capacitor
(c) the maximum current in the circuit
(d) the charge & current as functions of time
(e) the charge on the capacitor after one time
constant has elapsed.

Solution
(a) R C (8.0 10 5 ) (5 10 6 )

4.0 s

## (b) The maximum charge on the capacitor :

Q 0 CV 0
(5 10 6 ) (12 )

60 C
(c) The maximum current in the circuit :
12
V0

15 A
I0
5
8 10
R

t
/1

R
C
Ifrom
e:Q

0
500(Aet/R4C)

## Charge as a function of time

Q 60 C (1 e t /4 )

(e) t = = 4 s , Q = ?

60 C (1 e

4/4

) 37.9 C

## 2.3 Capacitors with dielectrics

Parallel Plate Capacitor
2 parallel metallic plates of equal area A are
separated by a distance d.

## The plates are very close together assume

the electric field is uniform between the
plates.

## The surface charge density on either plate :

Q

A
Applying the Gausss Law, the value of the
electric field between the plates :

Q
E

(1)
0 A 0
Since the field between the plates is uniform,
the magnitude of the potential difference
between the plates :

V E d ( 2)

C
0
A
d

V
Q

d A 0

## where 0 : permittivity of free space

8.85x10-12 F m-1
A : area of the plate
d : distance between 2 plates

Dielectric
Dielectric is an insulating material such as rubber,
plastic or waxed paper.
Dielectric materials: high electrical resistivity, but
an efficient supporter of electrostatic fields.
Can store energy / charge.
Able to support an electrostatic field while
dissipating minimal energy in the form of heat.
The effect of a dielectric is to increase the
capacitance by a factor of ( increase the charge
storage capacity of the capacitor )
is called dielectric constant / relative
permitivity. dimensionless & is greater than 1.

r
0

## If the gaps between the capacitor plates is not

vacuum but filled with a dielectric
mica

(dielectrics)

Rearrange: = r 0

A
(

)
A
r
o
C

dd

## Capacitance, C for parallel plate filled

with dielectrics :

where
: dielectric permittivity of the
material ( always greater than 0 )
r : relative permittivity
Example : r = 7.0 for mica
r = 3.7 for paper

## Dielectric Constant and Dielectric

Strength of Various Materials at Room
Temperature

Material

Dielectric Constant

Dielectric Strength
(V/m)

Air (dry)

1.00059

3 x 106

Bakelite

4.9

24 x 106

Fused quartz

3.78

8 x 106

Neoprene rubber

6.7

12 x 106

Nylon

3.4

14 x 106

Paper

3.7

16 x 106

Polystyrene

2.56

24 x 106

Polyvinyl Chloride

3.4

40 x 106

12 x 106

Pyrex Glass

5.6

14 x 106

Silicone Oil

2.5

15 x 106

Strontium Titanate

233

8 x 106

Teflon

2.1

60 x 106

1.00000

80

Porcelain

Vacuum
Water

Example 4
A parallel plate capacitor consists of 2 plates
each with area 200 cm2 separated by a 0.4 cm
air gap.
(a) compute its capacitance
(b) if the capacitor is connected across a 500
V source, what are the charge on either plate
?
Solution
Air gap r = 1.0 thus = 0
A = 200 cm2 = 200x10-4 m2
d = 0.4 cm = 0.4x10-2 m

(a)

ffrroom
0
A
:m
C

1
2

4
.:C
5V
8
x(Q
14.x10041()25x10)
44 x1012 F 44 pF

(b)

22 x10 C

Purpose of dielectric :
1. To limit the potential difference that can
be applied between the plates to certain
value, Vmax called breakdown potential.
2. It keeps the plates from coming into
contact.
3. Allows flexible plates of metallic foil to be
rolled into a cylinder, giving the capacitor
a more compact size.

## The effect of dielectric on a capacitor :

A dielectric material is inserted between the
plates of an isolated charged capacitor.

## When the material is in the capacitor, the

dipoles orient themselves with the field,
creates a `reverse` electric filed ( Ed ).

## The dipole field partially

cancels the field due to the
plate charges.
the net field ( E ) between the
plates is reduced the voltage
across the plates ( V = Ed ) also
decreases.
Since the stored charge
remains the same, the
capacitance increases.

## Dielectric & capacitance

Consider a parallel plate capacitor in air ( no
dielectric ) is charged by a battery to a charge
Q0 .

V
0

Er0r

is :

Q0
V0
C0

## But if a dielectric is now inserted between the

capacitor plates , the voltage drops by a factor
r to the value V.

Generally : V E d , thus :

## Since the capacitor is isolated- not connected

to an external circuit, no pathway for charge
to leave or to be added to the plates, thus Q0
remains same.

CdAw
C
rh

0
err0

Q
C
V

Q0
Q0

r
(V 0 / r )
V0

## For a parallel plate capacitor with a

dielectric, the capacitance is increased over
its ( air ) value by a factor r :

PITFALL Prevention
Is the capacitor connected to a
battery ?
In problems in which you are modifying a capacitor
( by inserting of a dielectric , for example ), you
must note whether modifications to the capacitor
are being made while the capacitor is connected to
a battery or after it is disconnected.
If the capacitor remains connected to the battery,
the voltage across the capacitor necessarily remains
the same.
If you disconnected the capacitor from the battery
before making any modifications to the capacitor, the
capacitor is an isolated system and its charge remains
the same.

Example 5
A parallelplate capacitor has charge of
magnitude 9x10-6 C on each plate &
capacitance 3F when there is air between the
plates. The plates are separated by 2.0 mm.
With the charge on the plates kept constant, a
dielectric with r = 5.0 is inserted between the
plates.
What is the potential difference & electric field
between the plates of the capacitor before &
after the dielectric has been inserted ?

6
Q
9

1
0
V
0E

C
0
3
0

3
dV
2
3
0

50
E
rr01

Solution
The potential difference before :

3 V

1.5 10 V m
3

0.6 V

300 V m -1

-1

## Figure shows a parallel plate capacitor

connected to a battery. A piece of insulator is
then inserted into the capacitor.
insulator

battery

capacitor

## State if any changes to

(a) the potential difference across the
capacitor.
(b) the capacitance of the capacitor
(c) the charge in the capacitor.

Answer
(a) Since capacitor still connected to
battery, V remain unchanged.
(b) As dielectric is inserted, capacitance
increase by a factor r .
(c) From:

Q CV

For V constant,

QC C Q

Capacitor

## A parallel-plate capacitor with a plate separation d

has a capacitance Co in the absence of a dielectric.
What is the capacitance when a slab of dielectric
material of dielectric constant and thickness d/3 is
inserted between the plates as shown.
Pictures from Serway & Beichner

SOLUTION
Two capacitors in
series : 1/C = 1/C1 + 1/C2
where
oA

C1 =

and C2 =

d/3
1 = d/3 + 2d/3
C oA
oA
d
= 3 A
o

oA

2d/3

+2

3 oA
C = 2 + 1
d
Pictures from Serway & Beichner

CAUTION !!! Capacitors are located inside of all laboratory equipment. They
come in many different shapes and sizes. Capacitors can remain energized and
produce harmful shocks long after a piece of equipment has been unplugged.
4/10/16

End of Chapter 2
Matriculation Physics SF027

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